The Role Of Women Essay

1267 words - 6 pages

The role of women in Canadian society has changed dramatically over the past two centuries. These roles, which had been defined in various cultures for centuries, were based both on natural instinct and on necessity. When Canada was first settled, it was natural for immigrants to maintain traditional roles for men and women. By the eighteenth century, these distinct roles were strongly established in Canadian society. During the nineteenth century, views on women’s role began to change, as urbanization and industrialization progressed. These changes reflected the many social, political, economic and technological changes that were occurring at that time. Aware of the many inequalities ...view middle of the document...

3 William Buchan agrees: “Women in all civilized nations, have the management of domestic affairs and it is very proper they should, as nature has made them less fit for the more active and laborious employments”.4 On the one hand, because women are anatomically and physiologically responsible for child bearing and breast feeding, it seemed natural for them to assume the role of “nurturer” for the family. On the other hand, because men are usually larger and stronger, it seemed natural for them to assume the role of the hunter-gatherer, the “provider” and protector for the family. Indeed, sexual passivity developed quite naturally in Victorian Canada.
In the nineteenth century, the traditional role of a woman was seen as necessary. Because the majority of men worked outside the home, in fields, industry, politics or urban development, women were left at home to care for their families and homes. Most Canadians wanted to maintain this existing system, fearing that “gender role change suggested the decline of civilization as they know it”. In fact, their belief in the virtue of women became a stabilizing constant that provided security and hope for the future.5 In Suffer and Be Still, Martha Vicinus explains: “The chaste woman was seen as exerting an all-pervasive moral influence within the home (a rather narrow sphere, one would think, for so large an influence). The woman, who broke the family circle, be she prostitute, adulterer or divorcée, threatened society’s very fabric”.6 Victorians considered women’s sexual passivity as necessary characteristics for child bearing and child rearing. Without a doubt, many woman felt trapped in this system of belief. In order to be accepted by society they were required to be passive, nurturing and submissive, but not all women naturally fit these requirements. For them it became necessary to find a way to make themselves appear natural while upholding the virtues of “True Womanhood”. Those women who could not force themselves to put on appearances found that they had no other choice but to react and attempt to change the definition and role of women in society. Although some historians believe that sexual passivity was seen as natural and necessary for women at this time, others argue sexual passivity was a deliberate choice in order for women to gain control and power. While many women complained of their traditional roles, others took advantage of the situation in order to gain some autonomy. For instance, sexual repression or abstinence was one of the only reliable prophylactic methods to prevent venereal disease. “By denying their sexuality, women prevented their being seen as sex objects and prudery became a mask hiding women’s efforts to achieve freedom of person. Women also down-played their sexuality because it was physical and any focus on the physical side of the male/female relationship could only emphasize woman’s weakness”.7 Without a doubt, sexual passivity was seen as...

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